Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More bloodletting at the New England Blade

Just when one may think things at the New England Blade (formerly InNewsweekly) couldn't get any worse, sources familiar with the troubled LGBT weekly in Boston have indicated to Boy in Bushwick that they very well may have. The paper's long-time office manager left a few weeks ago, and rumor has it additional terminations and resignations have once again left the newspaper scrambling. This writer anecdotally saw HX Media CEO Matthew Bank's away message on his Facebook profile as 'is going to Boston' over the weekend. Something must be going on in the Hub!

This speculation is the latest in a series of salvos directed at the troubled weekly. Former editor-at-large Fred Kuhr, Rhode Island correspondent Joe Siegel and columnist Chuck Colbert ceased their contributions to the newspaper late last year over back pay and concerns over editorial content and direction. HX Media also fired former associate publisher Bill Berggren in January after he allegedly used InNewsweekly resources to sell ads for a new publication, N'Touch, he unveiled in February.

A Suffolk County judge issued a temporary injunction against Berggren in February after HX Media filed suit against him and two former InNewsweekly sales representatives to block the publication of N'Touch. In addition to this litigation, Colbert told Boy in Bushwick this morning HX Media still owes him roughly$3,500.

These latest Boston revelations clearly indicate HX Media's empire remains in dire straights. HX Philadelphia abruptly folded late last month. And the New York Blade publishes every other week. Gay newspapers and other pink outlets are a very small niche within a much larger enterprises. The industry remains subject to the same trials and tribulations currently rocking the vast majority of traditional media, but HX Media's arguable antics don't serve their interests or those of their dwindling readership. They continue to tarnish the already questionable reputation of gay media. And this trend harms everyone involved.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Queens judge acquits three NYPD detectives who shot groom-to-be

A judge this morning acquitted three New York Police Department detectives who killed a groom-to-be outside a Queens strip club. Judge Arthur Cooperman found officers Michael Cooper, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper not-guilty in the death of unarmed Sean Bell outside Kalua Cabaret on Nov. 25, 2006. Bell, who was to marry his fiancee later that day, died after the officers shot him 50 times. His friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were severely wounded in the barrage of bullets.

Bell's death has obviously galvanized many New Yorkers who arguably remain weary of the NYPD. The death of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets in 1999 remains a stark testimony of this reality. I confess my own distrust of the NYPD in response to several incidences of questionable conduct in my own neighborhood. Last spring, for example, I saw nearly half a dozen plain-clothed officers shoving the face of a bloody man onto the hood of a van as they shouted profanities at him. It was around 3 p.m., and a number of children on their way home from school saw this scene unfold on the block. I concede I don't know the specifics behind this man's arrest, but the conduct of the officers who detained him certainly left a lasting impression.

It must be said the vast majority of NYPD officers protect the public with honor. All New Yorkers -- gay, lesbian, black, white, etc., -- should acknowledge that. But the Bell shooting, and other incidents, certainly cast doubt among many people of color and others who remain concerned about the state of the department and the conduct of a handful of officers. And this debate will continue to rage.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary's Pennsylvania victory sparks even more partisan brinkmanship

Journalists, activists and even objective observers have almost grown accustomed to the seemingly constant back and forth between operatives and supporters of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama during this lengthy primary and caucus season. The days leading up to the former First Lady's double digit victory in Pennsylvania last night featured a steady barrage of insults, criticisms and other observations from operatives on both sides.

One source here in New York featured a caricature of Obama with his nose up in the air after his comments about Pennsylvania voters during a San Francisco fundraiser became public. Another source routinely sends me a barrage of e-mails that try to spin coverage in Clinton's favor. It's important to note that Obama's campaign is not immune to these incidences, but the fact remains these operatives are not helping their cause -- and especially their candidates. The campaign obviously continues to unfold, but these folks arguably need to chill out, simmer down and quite frankly bite their tongues.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New York media gushes over Pope Benedict

As a self-confessed media junkie, National Public Radio, 1010 WINS and other news outlets are a prominent background feature in my home throughout the day and night. This weekend was no exception, but the proverbial orgy of media coverage surrounding Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the city this weekend was almost too much to stomach.

Reporters, anchors and others unapologetically gushed over the historical nature of the German-born pontiff's three-day visit to Gotham. Many could barely contain their excitement (and in some cases emotion) over the visage of Pope Benedict on Fifth Avenue, outside St. Patrick's Cathedral, holding Mass at Yankee Stadium, his youth rally in Yonkers, his solemn visit to Ground Zero or his historic visit to Park East Synagogue on the East Side on Friday.

The Holy See is certainly an influential entity within the world, and Pope Benedict is obviously worthy of coverage. But the question I kept asking myself during this media orgy was whether it came at the expense of the sex-abuse crisis, the exclusion of women, gays, lesbians and others from the Church. The majority of the city's media romanticized the pontiff. It focused its coverage on his appearance, and those who welcomed him into the city with open arms. There was precious little coverage of discriminatory dogma from within the church that continues to subjugate women, LGBTs and other faithful who fail to adhere to its strict and arguably largely outdated teachings. This is a true shame!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States

As a former Roman Catholic, I often recall the sadness and even anger I felt during my confirmation ceremony at St. Piux X Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. I was 18, but I had concluded this institution was not at all compatible with the progressive values I had already begun to embrace. My mother insisted this sacrament fulfilled one of my grandmother's dying wishes. I repeatedly argued she would not want me to go through with something with which I was not comfortable -- a position I maintain to this day.

But fast forward more than eight years to Pope Benedict XVI's whirlwind visits to Washington and New York that began on Tuesday afternoon. A friend and I watched CNN's live coverage of the pontiff's motorcade driving through Washington yesterday as we sat in a coffee shop in Hell's Kitchen. A number of media professionals have correctly raised questions about the sex abuse scandal that continues to rock the Church. The pope himself addressed these comments en route to the United States, and again during a meeting with American cardinals in Washington. This attention is arguably too little, too late, but the debate within the media and around the country remains needed.

That said, remaining questions over dogmatic positions against homosexuality, contraception, women in the priesthood and other issues will arguably remain secondary or even tertiary issues as many anchors, reporters and others continue to gush over the fact this trip marks the first time Benedict has visited the United States during his pontificate. This gross romanticization simply fails to accurately capture the deep problems that continue to face a Church that has arguably lost its moral authority in this country. The American Roman Catholic Church remains in a crisis, and many faithful almost certainly find themselves at a crossroads as they try to reconcile their faith with the actions (or inaction) of a religious institution in which they had once put so much faith. These struggles will not end with one six-day whirlwind visit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

WNYC highlights homophobia in Dancehall

The debate over homophobic lyrics in Jamaican Dancehall music has raged for years with British activist Peter Tatchell, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and other organizations holding protests and other actions to draw attention to this issue. And WNYC, the city's National Public Radio affiliate, highlighted these efforts and the advocacy surrounding the Reggae Compassionate Act this morning.

A fair argument can be made that indigenous music is a result of the society from which it comes. LGBT Jamaicans face widespread homophobia, violence and even death in their country as Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations have repeatedly documented. Dancehall artists who see no problem including homophobic lyrics in their music arguably perpetuate this mistreatment against their LGBT brothers and sisters on the island.

The issue of free speech is always a concern, and one that must be taken very seriously in any debate over music and other forms of artistic expression. But the question remains, however, over whether one person's free speech infringes upon the rights of another to live their live without fear, the threat of violence or even death. Free speech is not a license to perpetuate hate. And Dancehall artists, like others from around the world, have a responsibility to their fans, themselves and the countries they claim to represent to examine the impact their lyrics have, and the unfortunate consequences they arguably have against their LGBT countrymen. The alternative is simply unacceptable.

Monday, April 14, 2008

EDGE highlights Boy in Bushwick

My editorial colleagues at EDGE are currently using the month of April to explore how the Internet continues to impact gay life, and contributor Scott Kearnan profiled Boy in Bushwick in an article posted today. A full text of the story is below.

Bloggers on the EDGE

Once upon a time, blogging had a bad name.

In the early days of the Internet, blogs (you know, online, regularly updated repositories of first-person musings) were not considered venerable written work. No, back in the gay old ’90s--when I used to walk 20 minutes uphill in the snow, just to get to an FTP server--blogs were not widely written, widely read or widely esteemed.

Online blogs were perceived as the domain of angst-ridden teens and self-absorbed computer nerds. You know, the kind of people who posted pictures of their half-eaten bagels and a riveting play-by-play of their latest exercise in watching paint dry; somewhere along the way, a personal epiphany worked its way into the confessional equation.

But thanks to the incisive politicking of people like Arianna Huffington, the incessant star stalking of pod people like Perez Hilton, and the--ahem, interesting--haikus of "celebrity authors" like Rosie O’Donnell, blogging is big business.

Once cottage cheese, it’s now a cottage industry; legitimate news sources implement them, millions upon millions of people read them (Blogger.com, an automated publishing tool, regularly ranks in the top dozen US-based Web sites) and the lucky few are able to make substantial livings off writing them.

For EDGE staffers, keeping a steady writing gig at your favorite online source of gay news and entertainment isn’t a Plan B, it’s a favorite exercise in flexing the journalistic muscle many have been training for years. But there are some stories, some anecdotes and some editorialized rants that, for one reason or another, just don’t fit for inclusion in mainstream media.

But you know writers; we never know when to shut up.

Rather than stifle the voice within, some of your favorite EDGE editors and reporters--the very writers whose work you enjoy every day (and you are enjoying it every day, aren’t you?!) maintain their own blogs. Some are simple side projects, some are outlets for a burning editorial passion; some are personal, some are political; but all provide a behind-the-scenes perspective on the writers and editors that make EDGE a reality.

Interested in what EDGE journalists have to say off the record? Here’s a guide to their unique sites and styles:

Who: Sam Baltrusis, Northeast Regional Editor
Where: www.loadedgunboston.blogspot.com
What: Before he was covering the ins and Outs of New England for Edge, Baltrusis worked for MTV and VH1. The history left him with "a lot of pent-up venom against the pop culture mainstream," says Baltrusis. He shot back with "Loaded Gun," a regularly updated blog that culls, dissects and comments on controversial topics; particularly those of the, you guessed it, pop culture variety. "I use Loaded Gun to test the waters, especially if it’s a controversial topic I plan to use for EDGE or other mainstream publications," says Baltrusis, who launched the blog in 2006. "I definitely have a lot more interactivity with the readers."
Sample Snippet: "I spent a few minutes looking at the mirror trying to strike my best Zoolander ’gay face,’’ writes Baltrusis, discussing the humor and harm in the new pop culture phrase. "On the surface, ’gay face’ is harmless fun. However, the term borders a dehumanizing caricature in my book."

Who: Clay Crane, contributing writer
Where: www.claycane.net
What: This New York City based EDGE writer also takes on the music, movies, books and more, with a focus on issues of race and sexuality. Like a lot of pro bloggers, Crane used the modern medium as a way to cross-market his other writings. "I wanted to spread the word about my [upcoming] novel," says Crane, who is in the process of publishing Ball-Shaped World, a novel surrounding the black and Latino ballroom scene. "When writing for other publications... I am being objective and wearing more of a journalist hat," says Crane, who also contributes regularly to Essence Magazine, AOL Black Voices, and Vibe.com. But with his blog, he’s free take bit more liberty: "It’s about giving my opinion and posing a question to my readers," he adds.
Sample Snippet: "I will never be able to understand racialized preferences within black people," says Crane, discussing a dinner date with a preference for lighter skin blacks. "It’s one of the saddest and blatant examples of internalized hate."

Who: Michael K. Lavers, Mid-Atlantic Regional Editor
Where: www.boyinbushwick.blogspot.com
What: Echoing Baltrusis’ sentiment about corporate work steering a writer from his unique voice, Lavers launched his blog in 2007 after leaving a job with GLAAD. "My role was to provide strategic media support to local and statewide organizations throughout the Northeast," explains Lavers. "This task included crafting effective messages, writing press releases, and other media correspondences that didn’t necessarily reflect my own beliefs. Boy in Bushwick allowed me to regain my voice and to discuss the issues I want to discuss." Like many of his fellow EDGE bloggers, Lavers is particularly interested in discussing the intersection of social delineations like sex, sexuality and race; that the blog will follow Lavers’ summering on Fire Island in the coming months should make for plenty of additional rumination. But most of all, he’s grateful to have a venue that reflects his unique voice. "[Journalism] schools often teach, or even preach, journalists should not express their opinions about the subjects about which they write," says Lavers. "This certainly holds true in my reporting and editing for EDGE, but I feel Boy in Bushwick is the appropriate venue where I can showcase my editorial voice."
Sample Snippet: "Are LGBTs more oppressed than other minorities? ... It is arguably unproductive to compare the oppression one group, such as people of color, to that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other people may face in this country or others around the world. These comparisons amount to comparing apples and oranges."

Who: John Steele, contributing writer
Where: www.the-sound-and-the-fury.blogspot.com
What: "Pop cultural ramblings" are the order of the day for Steele, whose recent posts cover everything from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Ashley Dupre. "I don’t do confusing stories with a lot of nuance on my blog," says Steele of differentiating that work from others. "I stick to the simple human comedy of the everyday and the relics of pop culture that we might all like to forget. It’s a voice without an agenda but also with a lot of thought." Indeed, Steele says it’s important to maintain journalistic standards, no matter how light the subject may seem. "Either you respect your craft or you don’t. And that should stay the same no matter who you write for. Because at the end of the day, its your name on the byline. You have to be accountable for that."
Sample Snippet: "Hi, my name is Ashley Alexandra Dupre. I am 22 years old. I love to travel and play in the outdoors. Other hobbies include showing my snatch in public and dethroning the Governor of New York."


Not satiated yet? Here are some other blogs on the EDGE of cyberspace.

Adeli Brito, an EDGE NYC music reviewer, keeps a daily blog of music reviews, lists, retrospectives and reflections. Many entries take an "on this day in music history" approach to educating music trivia.
Where: www.adeli.wordpress.com

EDGE writer Alan Bennett Ilagan’s blog is also a useful guide to his previously published work for other publications like Instinct, xy, Q Northeast and the rest of his body of work. "Body" being an operative phrase; Ilagan is kind enough to include galleries of pics that show the writer in travel, in drag and in the shower. We’re particularly grateful for the latter.
Where: www.alanilagan.com

Writer Christopher de la Torre does double duty: Leaves of the Tree is his personal blog on national news, politics and pop culture, while Urban Molecule is an opportunity to indulge his appreciation of edgy contemporary art. Learn how to right click; you’ll find some sweet desktop wallpaper. Thanks, Chris!
Where: www.leavesofthetree.wordpress.com and www.urbanmolecule.com

Eliot Glazer spreads the love of random, witty observations on everything from celebrity culture to the minutiae of daily life. Entries tend to be short and clipped, making his a great dose of daily diversion.
Where: www.fasthugs.typepad.com

Erik Roldan, a Chicago-based EDGE contributor, maintains a blog that is an extension of his radio show, focusing on art and music for the queer community. The blog includes news, reflections... and mp3s. Score!
Where: www.thinkpinkradio.com

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring has finally sprung

Forgive me for this potentially overly giddy posting, but Spring has finally sprung here in New York. It was 73 degrees here in the city today, and I soaked up a few rays this afternoon in Union Square with hundreds of my fellow New Yorkers and others who had the same mission in mind. The trees had buds on them, the daffodills were in full bloom, and sunglasses were the fashion accessory du jour. I leave for Fire Island in less than a month, but today in the city was simply wonderful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Are LGBTs more oppressed than other minorities?

My roommate posed this question earlier this morning during a broader conversation about oppression and which group suffers more in this country. It is arguably unproductive to compare the oppression one group, such as people of color, to that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other people may face in this country or others around the world. These comparisons amount to comparing apples and oranges. They lose sight of the myriad of underlying complexities involved around oppression, how it is imposed upon a particular group and its broader impact.

Some of the most overly racist people I have met are unfortunately white gay men who all too often forget they too are subject to discrimination and even oppression. They remain unable to marry their partner in 49 states. These same men cannot serve openly in the United States military, and they cannot even donate blood to the American Red Cross because of their sexual orientation. The list of things these men are unable to do goes on and on, but they apparently forget the oppression to which they are arguably subject in their own oppression of others with a different skin color or background.

The purpose behind the previous example is to highlight the hierarchy of oppression that inherently exists within a particular group. This reality is a small piece of a much broader reality within American society and others around the world. One can quickly argue it remains a sad irony for gay men, such as those mentioned in the previous example, to perpetuate oppression against others while they face their own discrimination. And it also arguably concludes power dynamics and struggle remains alive and well within LGBT America as it does throughout society.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dr. King's legacy lives on

Today marks four decades since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Arizona Sen. John McCain are among the thousands of people expected to take part in a variety of commemorations across the city that will mark the grim anniversary. Pundits, commentators and other observers will certainly continue to analyze Dr. King's legacy today -- as they have done since his untimely death on April 4, 1968.

My home state of New Hampshire did not officially recognize Martin Luther King, Jr., Day until the late 1990s, and some may question how a 26-year-old gay white man from the Granite State could possibly find this figure inspirational. Dr. King was certainly controversial during his all too brief life, but the movement he spearheaded (and arguably continues to lead in memorium), arguably laid the foundation upon which the modern movement for LGBT rights is built.

Racial prejudice and intolerance remains alive and well in the United States. My grandmother's initial rejection of her multiracial great-grandchild is one of a myriad of examples of this reality. This country must continue to confront this legacy. Dr. King inspired millions of people to stand up and demand their rights in a country whose founding document proclaims all men are created equal. This legacy lives on four decades after his death.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Question: Are we too politically correct?

As a journalist, commentator and overall observer of the world around me, I sometimes ask whether I am too politically correct. My roommate and some members of my family periodically provide me with an affirmative answer to this question during conversations about politics, current events and other things that happen to dominate headlines on a given day. But the question about whether a person (or an organization) is too politically correct, however, is one that extends beyond an individual or entity.

The movement for LGBT rights arguably tackles with this question on a daily basis as it seeks to expand its collective agenda. Jay Leno's insensitive joke towards actor Ryan Phillippe during a taping of the "Tonight Show" last month, efforts to curb 'homosexual,' 'transvestite' or even 'faggot' in the media or even calls to boycott pundit Ann Coulter, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and other (arguably) anti-LGBT figures from the airwaves are endemic examples of this debate that so often takes place within organizations around the country. Activists behind these efforts often have the best of intentions: They want to ensure fair, accurate and inclusive images and representations of LGBT people in the media, they feel "faggot" and other anti-LGBT slurs defame, prejudice and even encourage anti-LGBT violence or they feel Coulter and company have had their moments in the sun. But are these efforts actually effective?

This question is not an attempt to distract attention away from the need for people to be held to account for their anti-LGBT statements and actions, but it begs us to examine the broader issues associated with it. An observer outside the movement for LGBT rights can arguably conclude it has become obsessed with political correctness. The examples cited in the previous paragraph, and a plethora of others, could certainly prove this subjunctive hypothesis correct. But yet another question remains as to whether this obsession has produced tangible results beyond the admittedly small sphere that is the movement for LGBT rights. Time will certainly tell.